1 EAGLETON NOTES: Forms of Address

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Tuesday, 7 January 2020

Forms of Address

I was sure that I'd mentioned this before but it would appear not. 

There was a time when, in the UK anyway, there were fairly strict rules of address for letters. I still write a lot of letters and receive quite a few too. However I've never kept a note of all the forms of address until I went through the envelopes of my Christmas cards.

The results were interesting in that I was addressed in ten different ways:

Mr G B Edwards        26%
Graham Edwards        26%
Mr G Edwards            19%

With the final 29% being shared between

G B Edwards Esq       
Mr Graham Edwards 
Mr B Edwards             
Barry Edwards             
Graham B Edwards     
G Barry Edwards Esq  
Mr G Barry Edwards    

Any one using the 'Barry' is likely to have known me for more than 45 years. Although some on the Island do know me as Barry (which is what my wife called me) anyone who knew me directly calls me Graham, GB or Geeb (amongst various other things I shall gloss over).

As my Dad used to say "I don't care what you call me so long as it's not late for my dinner".

35 comments:

  1. Are you a Secret Agent with all those aliases?

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    1. JayCee, anything but secret I think if all of those found me. When I went to Lewis 45 years ago I was the only Edwards on the Island. Now there's quite a few (mostly unrelated!).

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  2. My original given first name is hyphenated. Computers didn't accept hyphened names, and the name became smooshed. Nobody calls me that though.

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    1. That's really weird, Maywyn, I was sure I'd replied to this but various comments have disappeared and YP has sent a comment through a number of times but it's only appeared once on the blog. Anyway the gist of my reply was that my Dad had a hyphenated surname but my Mum insisted that he remove the hyphen before they married. So I am not a Thompson-Edwards.

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  3. hmmm you've gotten me wondering about this esq title, from my years working in law I remember addressing letters with that word to higher ups, but funnily enough Barry is my other half's first name too.

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    1. Amy, Esq (Esquire) was a title given to the younger sons of certain peers of the realm and also to lawyers. It is still used for lawyers (apparently regardless of sex) in the USA. It has largely fallen out of use in the UK except in very formal circumstances.

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  4. I learned how to correctly address letters when I did my secretarial studies in the late 1960s. It appears to me that over recent years the use of Esq has more or less died out. Although you were addressed in many different ways with your Christmas cards, nobody made any glaring errors from a purely theoretical point of view.

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    1. Absolutely Rachel. When I was young I did a great deal of protocol work and everyone had to be addressed accordingly. You will, undoubtedly, remember that Ministers of Religion were formally address 'Reverend and Dear Sir" at the start of the letter. You will also remember "I am, Sir, your obedient servant". When I went to Scotland in the mid 70s I discovered that none of those formalities existed at all.

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    2. Yes, I remember these, and having a reference book to refer to in order to get the titles right.

      When temping in London for part of the Transport and General Workers Union in Euston in 1969 we started letters "Dear Brother" and signed them off "Yours Fraternally",

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    3. Rachel 'Dear Brother'! I hope that was for the men only. As for 'Yours Fraternally' I would find that condescending in the extreme. He was not fatherly towards me. Did women sign 'Yours Maternally'?

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    4. I was in a typing pool so in no position to ask questions, aged 17. I never started a letter Dear Sister. I assume if the writer had been addressing a female Union member he would have started it Dear Sister but female members of the TGWU were probably few and far between. All the writers in that office were men. I assume fraternally fitted all in the brotherhood of trade unions in any case.

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  5. What does Esq actually stand for?
    Here in Germany, correct adressing has changed since I trained as a Librarian in the 1980s. Nowadays, hardly anyone still puts "Herr" or "Frau" in front of the name when they write the adress on a letter. Printed letters and adresses such as we receive from insurance companies or others will still carry it, though. And "Fräulein", usually shortened to "Frl." (the equivalent to the English "Miss"), has been abolished already 35 years or so ago.

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    1. Graham won't know the answer to this so I will help him out. Esq. means "Esquire" which is a an unofficial means of showing respect towards gentlemen. Its use has changed slightly through the years but the term has been a form of respectful address since the sixteenth century.

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    2. Thanks, YP. And, Meike, see my reply to Amy above.

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  7. I prefer to be addressed by my name...as it is...with no "Miss or Mrs" in front of it. I've always preferred it this way. Because my is a name that can be gender confusing to those who do not know me...it can be either female or male...if I'm writing to persons who don't know me...I always put "Ms" after my name to clear up any misunderstandings.

    My names...first, middle and surnames can be either or, either which way they are written...Lee Frances George.....(except for the feminine spelling of "Frances" with an "e", of course. In some cases, the "e" instead of the masculine "i" in the spelling is confusing or unknown to some.)

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    1. I expect that some paying guests on Hinchinbrook Island just called you "Hey you!" as in "Hey you! Get me a beer!" The response may have surprised them!

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    2. That's interesting, Lee. Like you I'm very happy just being addressed Graham Edwards. Apart from certain people whom I know have preferences I tend just to address my friends in the same way although I am sometimes more formal.

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    3. Actually, no, Yorkie. But I did have one new guest call me "L'George" once day after I had introduced myself to him giving my name..."Lee George". Smiling, and politely, I corrected his misunderstanding.

      I can't recall ever being hailed "Hey, you!"...and if anyone had done so, no doubt, I would have ignored them because of their ignorance.

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  8. I would fall in the Graham Edwards camp as, like Lee, I like to be addressed by my name without any titles, and usually do the same to others. I want to send you a letter now, just to see if I can think of another way to address it.

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    1. I await your attempts with interest, Pauline.

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  9. I've been called Susan, sue, Susie, Sis, and Teacher. The ones I like best are Sis and Teacher. People I care about used those names.

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    1. Susan, I think it's very pleasing when people call me by informal names.

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  10. Interesting. I've never checked on letters but I know I get a few different handle. My Dad also used your Dad's quote.

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    1. Red, our Dads sound as though they might have had a similar sense of humour.

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  11. Ever since I held a bank account with 'Williams Deacons' in The City, the ever changing banks have continued to write 'Esq' after my name on my cheque books. And so they bloody should!

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    1. Cro, the days when Martins Bank did that went when they were swallowed up by one of the biggies.

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  12. In the US, the use of esquire behind a surname denotes a lawyer (barrister/solicitor).

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    1. Thanks for that confirmation, Mary. I knew it used to be the case but I wasn't sure if it was still in common usage.

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  13. Just thank your lucky stars not to have been born female and having to deal with Miss L. Ex--, then Mrs G.---- ,then divorced and on to Mrs L. ---- ,then remarried and the Mrs R. XXX . My signature has always been Lesley followed by a squiggle. Lesley Squiggle!

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    1. Potty, henceforth to be known as Lesley, when my niece married, her husband changed his surname to hers thus she is still Dr Edwards.

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  14. In my younger days, Esquire used to refer to anyone who was a landowner. I can remember my father receiving mail addressed this way - he was a farmer, and certainly not a lawyer or member of the aristocracy.
    I disliked being addressed as Mrs followed by my husband's name. I was his wife, not his possession, and am glad that one seems to have gone out the window now.

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    1. Margaret, I find it quite difficult sometimes with married people. Some women have strong feelings on how they wish to be addressed. On the other hand I often referred to my wife as my partner. She wasn't keen on that and preferred to be my wife. 26 years after our divorce she still refers to herself as Mrs .... Edwards. My daughter-in-law refers to herself as Mrs (Maiden Name). My Grandson has both parents' surnames with his mother's surname as his registered surname. Life can be very confusing.

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